With Pride Month coming to a close and the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality, June has been a historically important month to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, Intersex (LGBTQI) community. Pride month serves as an annual chance to recognize the impact that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people have had on history and a chance to celebrate the positive stance against discrimination as well as celebrate diversity and equal acceptance. For both LGBTQI foster kids and parents, it’s an annual reminder they are not alone.
Following the historic ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court claiming that same-sex marriage is a right and thus legal throughout the country, the LGBTQI community is rejoicing.
However, the hard fought victory for equality doesn’t mean immediate acceptance by society. The fight for societal acceptance continues for the LGBTQI community, and especially for LGBTQI foster kids and parents who often struggle against discrimination daily.
Many LGBTQI foster kids and parents have faced harassment and exclusion because of their sexual orientation. Earlier in June in Michigan, private adoption agencies were granted the right to refuse to place children with same sex-couples on religious grounds. While devastating same-sex couples in Michigan that were looking to adopt, the law also makes it harder for more than 13,000 children in the state’s adoption and foster care system to be placed in homes, according to Freedom Michigan, a group that supports gay rights.
Nationwide, groups such as The All Children – All Families campaign argue that agencies across the country can increase their prospective foster and adoptive parent pools by welcoming and recruiting the LGBTQI community. Many states do not do this, which is why certain same-sex couples come to New Jersey to complete their family.
New Jersey is a recognized leader in supporting and serving LGBTQI families, according to the Human Rights Campaign. The state has never had a policy of denying adoption of children based on sexual orientation and is one of 16 states that definitively allow joint gay adoptions.
However difficult a path for acceptance it is for LGBTQI foster parents, it can be an even tougher road for LGBTQI kids. Whether the persecution is coming from their fellow children or other adults, LGBTQI foster kids often face more harassment and violence than other foster groups.
In an article in Mother Jones titled “Queer and Loathing: Does the Foster Care System Bully Gay Kids?” the author examines how difficult the foster care system can be for LGBTQI children by telling one teenager’s story. The teen, Kenneth Jones, faced verbal harassment, violence and homelessness all because of his sexuality. He isn’t alone.
“According to the American Bar Association’s 2008 guidebook for child-welfare lawyers and judges, virtually all lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning kids in group homes had reported verbal harassment; 70 percent had been subjected to violence; and 78 percent had either run away or been removed from a foster placement for reasons related to their sexuality. ‘They are the one population thrown out of their home because of who they are,’ says Gerald P. Mallon, a professor at New York’s Hunter College School of Social Work.”
However bleak the statistics are, LGBTQI foster kids and parents aren’t alone in facing this crisis of discrimination and harassment. Organizations such as Connecticut-based True Colors work towards helping LGBTQI kids in the system and states such as California have passed foster care nondiscrimination laws.
New Jersey has the Safe Space Program which looks to ensure the safety, well-being and health of LGBTQI foster kids and parents. The program, through a liaison, helps identify local resources such as support groups, therapists and medical practitioners.
While the battle for marriage equality came to a close in June, it’s important to remember that LGBTQI foster kids and parents fight daily for the things many of us take for granted: acceptance in a safe and secure home.
Lloyd Nelson is the Digital Media Manager of Foster and Adoptive Family Services. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.